Honors to host premiere for new film February 23rd

film poster

The Story of the Surprise Success of the Traveling Preachers of Early Texas Premieres Friday 23 February at 7 PM

A Program free and open to the Public At the Whatley Center for the Performing Arts at NTCC

By: Dr.  Andrew Yox, Honors Director

For twelve years running, the scholars of Honors Northeast have premiered previously un-filmed stories of the Texas past.   But this year, Honors Northeast, and the NTCC Webb Society have teamed with Herald and Co. Motion Pictures to present a story that has never even been told before.  The film follows the research of the Reverend Dan Hoke of Franklin County, and NTCC Presidential Scholar, Luke McCraw.  It spotlights a gap in early Texas history.  Most students know that Mexican authorities and empresario, Stephen F. Austin advertised early Texas as a Roman Catholic province. What they don’t know is the extent to which Austin, in fact, worked to create a totally secular state.  No one of influence encouraged the reemergence of Roman Catholic missions like the Alamo that had expired, or the immigration of priests. At one point the whole area of east Texas had only two priests.   Incoming Protestant missionaries, meanwhile, were beaten, imprisoned, and forced to re-emigrate. A “Pine-Tree Curtain” from the Red to the Sabine appeared. Would Texas become something like Revolutionary France, an extreme realization of the so-called Enlightenment?  

cast and crew

Cast and Crew of this year’s film. Photo Courtesy of Hudson Old,
and the East Texas Journal.

Those attending the free premiere at 7 p.m. Friday 23 February at the Whatley Center for the Performing Arts will see how Christian evangelists of the era, without sufficient funds or even denomination backing, responded to the impasse.  The production is free of charge, and the public is welcome.  Free coffee, homemade cookies, and drinks will be provided afterward, in the Whatley Foyer, thanks to the Friends of Honors Northeast. Members of the cast will also be present for a brief Q&A with interested members of the audience.

For the first time, the honors program and student scholars of NTCC have joined with a filmmaker from Camp County, now residing in Austin, Allen Herald.  Herald and his associate, Hannah Goldblum, from South Africa, were the guiding spirits in every one of the twenty-five sessions last summer and this fall that were devoted to the organization of this project and its filming. Herald, who was homeschooled, began filming at an early age. In the course of his time in Northeast Texas, he matriculated at NTCC, and has over 65 hours of credit here. During the whole time, however, he kept his focus on film, and pursued many random cinematic projects with friends.  In order to get his friends to memorize sizable scripts, for example, Allen would help them out in other ways, work on their car, or help them rake leaves. Today in Austin, Herald is a freelance film and video producer, who has worked with several businesses and agencies.  His associate, Hannah Goldblum, is an art major and honors student who also now has had experience with

Goldblum and Herald at Jo’s Coffee House

Goldblum and Herald at Jo’s Coffee House

 several film projects.

Honors Director, Dr. Andrew Yox, in a report about the group’s activity 2023 to the Webb Society in Austin noted that this year’s production was fundamentally different because of “verve factor.” The willingness of honors students to lay down so many hours, to act, to memorize, and in some cases, even endanger their GPAs was a “function of our charismatic, executive director, Allen Herald.  To be sure, Michelle Calderon, and Monse Rivero, two highly personable student directors, added considerably to the original thrust.  Their support was absolutely crucial. But Herald motivated students to serve in this film long-term, like no one else. He said the film ‘would be awesome’ and that the talent of this group was ‘incredible’. He was always very patient and affirming with people.  His associate . . .  Hannah Goldblum said little, but everyone sensed how intelligent she was, and helpful with the finer points of filmmaking.  Glamorous, easy to talk to, and an artist at heart, she set an example, and advanced the final product in innumerable ways.”

For the fifth year in a row, the NTCC premiere will feature the music of Kenny Goodsonof Hughes Springs.  Goodson was the former director of NTCC computer services, and a former regional band director.  Less known is the fact that Goodson has composed music played around the state since his undergraduate days at Stephen F. Austin University.  Goodson’s scoring of NTCC films has become more and more sophisticated, and riveting.  The trailer of the coming premiere, now at the Honors Northeast website at www.ntcc.edu/honorsfilms drew the following comment from an anonymous viewer familiar with the film series: “Kenny nailed the underscore.” As Goodson was also a former Methodist minister with a personal interest in the script, and wide exposure to Protestant hymnody, some are anticipating the most unprecedented sound track ever scored



Though the honors film about Ma and Pa Ferguson in 2015 had a formidable female cast, 2023 brought together the best cinematic male talent that the honors program at NTCC has ever fielded. This was fortunate as the film was indeed about four traveling preachers who challenged Texas’ early secular state.  In the film, Michael Rodriguez plays the dean of the traveling preachers, William Stevenson, and Kaden Groda appears as his son, James.  Garrett Phillips appears at Henry Stephenson, the preacher who made the most remarkable foray, and Morgan Thrapp as the Baptist evangelist, Joseph Bates. Luke McCraw plays the role of Stephen F. Austin.  Pioneer researcher Rev. Hoke also appears as the great Methodist revivalist, Francis Asbury.  

The film is ultimately the result of the generous friends of Honors Northeast, in particular Jerald and Mary Lou Mowery, who have been the key film supporters through the years.  Questions about the premiere can be addressed to Honors Director, Dr. Andrew P. Yox at ayox@ntcc.edu. Previous films of the series can all also be seen at the honors website: www.ntcc.edu/honorsfilms.